Establishing a comprehensive content strategy for existing pages on your website is a key piece of the search engine optimization (SEO) puzzle, especially considering Google’s ongoing Panda quality updates.
Let’s look at one strategy you can use to both Panda-proof and better optimize your site to grab more of the long tail traffic in your space. Who doesn't like that?
Eliminate Bloat Pages
Before starting to look at where you need content, critically evaluate your site and see if there are unnecessary pages being indexed. Some common examples of this extra fluff that bloats your Google pages indexed are paginated product pages, indexed internal search result pages, and sort options for product pages.
Although solutions for bloat pages are beyond the scope of this post, eliminating these is a must prior to creating a great content strategy. The easiest way find what bloat pages are getting indexed is to run a simple site search (e.g., [site:example.com]) command in Google and explore.
Keyword Research Blueprint for Content Optimization & Content Creation
Keyword research is the blueprint of any content strategy. Although much of the methodology you will use will be determined by the size of your site, here's one good method for small to mid-sized sites.
Keyword Research for Your Strongest Subpages
Assuming that you've fixed any internal duplicate content issues on your site and removed unneeded pages, it is time to beef up existing pages.
Since you're making an investment in content for your site, you want to make sure that pages are well optimized for both relevant and valuable primary keywords. You also want to make sure that you include important variations and synonymous keywords as part of the content strategy for existing pages.
The natural starting point for this kind of research are ranking based keyword tools. Some popular paid tools for this information include SEMRush, SpyFu, and Ahrefs. These tools provide keywords for your site and your competitors, which you can export into a nice spreadsheet. They are great for giving you a good idea of what the valuable keywords for pages across your site are and identifying gaps in your content strategy. You'd be surprised how common it is for pages not to even include the powerful keywords that they rank for in the copy.
Once you vet the data a little bit, you can get a good idea of the powerful keywords that are already bringing traffic to your site. If you have some budget constraints and can’t use a paid tool, you can attempt some of this research using analytics and the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.
One thing you'll find when you do ranking based keyword research is that there are a lot of pages and keywords missing. This means that it’s time to start your exploratory keyword research, which is how you fill in the blanks in your spreadsheet. Although there are many great paid options, Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a nice free solution for this purpose – just make sure to log in to see the full data!
It's a good idea to run at least a couple iterations of your exploratory keyword tool of choice to identify valuable keywords that you don't yet rank for. During this research, not only will you find keywords for existing pages that you may have missed but you will also find whole keyword groups which you'd want brand new pages for.
On a side note, by this point it’s a good idea to break out your keyword list into one primary and a bunch secondary phrases for each page. This can be done using simple highlighting or some other method. Your call.
Keyword Research For Your Thin Deep Pages
Adding content to your deep pages is a funny thing because if you have a large site, there is definitely a cost associated with it. If adding unique content to a large number of pages falls outside your given budget, consider going back to see what additional pages can be done away with in the index.
Depending on the nature of your products and the amount of SKU's you have, SEO based keyword research strategy will vary dramatically. However, let's assume that a given site has a couple hundred or couple thousand SKU's, there are several things to look at for sites of this scope.
First, check that all of the given pages are cached. That may seem like a 'duh!' proposition to some of you, but you'd be surprised how often this is overlooked.
Second, check if there are relevant high value phrases that you can pair with your thin non-ranking pages. It is hard to speak generally on this because so much of this level of keyword research ties into your specific space and how people 'talk' about your kind of products online. One general method that can be used is throwing large swaths of product names into a keyword tool and 'sampling' to see what gets search for and deserves deeper inquiry but this method is not ideal.
Competitor Based Keyword Research
Once you’ve exhausted keyword research for existing pages and exploratory keyword research, it’s time to go gem hunting on your competitors keywords. Use the tools mentioned above for doing this by running keyword reports for all of your competitors and comparing them against your own list and filling it in with keywords that make sense for your site.
Another great thing to look at, if you're not doing PPC already, is what keywords competitors are bidding on that you can consider incorporating into your organic strategy, if you already have not.
Now that you're done with the hard part, you're ready to start actionably using your keyword research for implementing your content strategy and keyword optimization for your pages. In a word, you have your master keyword list for organic search.
Tips for Content Creation
Once your site is cleaned up of all unnecessary pages and you have a plan for the rest of the pages on your site, it’s time to get the pages optimized and the content created. Here are some general pointers:
- Keep word count varying from page to page: Try not to have the exact same non-linked word count from page to page. This will make your content look more natural.
- Make sure that there is a good saturation of synonymous phrases: Google is getting very good at understanding synonymy and they’re working hard to decipher language meaning. Inclusion of secondary phrases is an important part of any keyword strategy.
- Add value on your pages: See if there is anything that you can add to your pages to make them more interesting. Consider adding widgets to pages or looking at competitors to see how you can improve the value of individual pages or templates on your site.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!